* Owner says building did have permit
* About 70 survivors pulled from wreckage
* Nine dead, many more missing
By Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRA, Nov 9 The owner of a shopping mall which
collapsed in the Ghanaian capital apologised on Friday for the
loss of lives but denied accusations he had not obtained
authorisation for the building.
At least nine people died when the mall, operated by Indian
retailer Melcom Ltd, caved in shortly after opening for business
on Wednesday. Some 70 survivors have been rescued and sent to
"I am personally distraught - I sincerely regret the loss of
lives as a result of the collapse of my building and I ask
Ghanaians to forgive me for the death of their children,"
property owner Boadu Nkansah Ayeboafo told a radio programme.
Ayeboafo denied accusations by the city authorities that the
building was not authorised.
"It can never be true - I have all the relevant documents
relating to the construction - they include the receipts for the
permit and I have them as we speak," he said.
Accra is in a construction boom spurred by oil-fuelled
economic growth, but building standards region-wide are
generally poor and enforcement is often lax.
Emergency officials said more people than initially thought
were still trapped in the wreckage of the department store,
which collapsed due to suspected structural failure.
"It is difficult to estimate how many more people are still
missing, but we believe they are not as much as the number that
has been pulled out," police spokesman Freeman Tettey said.
"It has been decided that this operation should continue so
long as we suspect there are people down there - we have to get
to the bottom of the rubble," he said.
A team of Israeli experts joined the search on Thursday with
special equipment and sniffer dogs to bolster rescue efforts, as
distraught relatives looked on.
"I have been here since yesterday and up til now, I can't
find my sister, I can't see my sister - I am here praying to
gods if they can find my sister for me," said truck driver John
Abubakar, tears rolling down his cheeks.
A survivor said the four-storey building collapsed while
employees were in morning prayers ahead of the start of
"All we heard was a cracking noise of one of the pillars -
we saw it coming down and we started running. Then there was a
big bang and I blacked out," 32-year old Selina Ghartey told
Reuters from her hospital bed.
President John Mahama, running for election in December, cut
short his campaign tour to visit the site and promised an
inquiry into how the building's owner was able to circumvent
State investigators have arrested a building inspection
director, deputy information minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
(Editing by Bate Felix and Robin Pomeroy)